Something in the Woods

Posted by: Nick Redfern on May 11th, 2012

From Jonathan Downes, of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology, we get the following, intriguing story today:

“As regular readers of our inky-fingered scribbling, both here and elsewhere, will be aware, we have taken particular interest in the sightings of what appears to be a big cat in the vicinity of the village where we live. We have been logging these sightings for some years, and there are several places – all in the vicinity of Huddisford Woods – which appear to be regular haunts of the mysterious creature (s).”

“Something which is particularly interesting, to us at least, is the fact that two distinct varieties of creature have been noted. The first is a large, black creature. Regular readers will already know that DNA extracted from hairs – presumably from this creature – found in the woods during August 2010 were shown by Dr Ross Burnett to contain the DNA of a leopard of the sub-Saharan sub-species. Tests conducted on other hairs from the same batch had this identification confirmed earlier this year by Dr Tom Gilbert at the University of Copenhagen.”

“The second creature that has been noted is smaller and brown in colour. Most of these sightings have taken place at a location where a stream crosses the road under a bridge. The woods on both side of the road are private property owned by friends of ours, and with their permission, earlier this year in February, we carried out an experiment. We installed four automatic trail cameras, which have been obtained for us through the good offices of our friend Glen Vaudrey, who last year carried out a successful fund-raising campaign.”

“We left them out for two periods of one month – first on one side of the road and then on the other, and a few days ago we brought them back in. They had been positioned so that any creature larger than a rabbit that was crossing the road at the point in question would be picked up, and immortalised as a digital image. We would have left the cameras for longer; when we left them at Walland Farm at Bucks Cross for three months over winter we got over 700 images containing wild animals. But the location of these cameras was – perforce – quite close to the road, and as the weather got warmer, and more people walked their dogs along there, and more holiday makers started to arrive, we felt uneasy about leaving £600 worth of equipment in almost full view of the road.”

“Well, to let you down gently; we didn’t get any pictures of big cats. The first set of pictures contained badgers, deer, a farm cat, what initially looked like a penguin but was actually a lesser-spotted woodpecker, and a young lady in an embarrassing state of dishabille.”

“The second set produced far fewer pictures, but in many ways, was the most interesting. We got an image of a splendid roe buck and several images of an otter. The stone on which the otter is clambering is 20 inches long, so we estimate the otter to be nearly 3 feet in length.”

“Now, we are not trying to decry what any of the witnesses saw. Two of them are known to us personally, but it is a fairly well-established fact that the human mind plays tricks and that – like Captain Ahab – one can sometimes ‘smell land where there is no land’. Roe deer are funny little creatures which are far more cryptid than the red deer, which can be found in many locations around Woolsery. They move differently, and they slink about in a most un-ungulatish fashion. Otters, on the other hand, are exceedingly rare in Britain these days, and are surprisingly large.”

“I think it quite possible that if either of these species had been glimpsed out of a corner of one’s eye in the middle of the night, caught in the headlights of a witness’s car for a few split seconds, the cerebral cortex of the witness may well have interpreted them as being a big cat. Or on the other hand, what the witnesses had seen might well have been a big cat, and both the roe buck and the otter merely interesting irrelevances.”

“For there is quite a tradition of two different sized mystery cat-like creatures having been seen in the same location at the same time. Author Di Francis has suggested that this is because the British big cat is markedly sexually dimorphic – that the two genders look surprisingly different. Others have suggested that this is because captive cats of different species, but with the same provenance have been released at the same time. Others still say that it is just a coincidence.”

“We are going to sit on the fence for the time being, but our researches continue, and we will keep you updated. Watch this space.”

Nick Redfern About Nick Redfern
Punk music fan, Tennents Super and Carlsberg Special Brew beer fan, horror film fan, chocolate fan, like to wear black clothes, like to stay up late. Work as a writer.

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